Devote Yourself to creating something that gives you purpose . . .

"So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning."

Tuesdays with Morrie, author Mitch Albom

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Are You A Blogger? Should You Be?

After several holiday vacation days from blogging it is time to get serious about content again.  As we approach 2010 and look for ways to increase the success of our businesses, you might ask yourself the question how can I get my message out so that others know about my products or services.

If you've considered blogging you may wonder about its benefits.
  • Writing a blog is like building a brand. 
  • Creating articles creates searchable content directing business to your specific niche
  • As a teaching tool, you expose others to information they might not have acquired otherwise
An excellent article written by Matt Jackson called 10 Big Benefits of a Busy Business Blog (and How to Take Advantage) is an excellent resource article explaining how blogging might benefit your business.

If you are a blogger, you may wonder how to increase your readership.
  • content is king, it is better to write original content than to copy from other sources; however, if you find an excellent source of information available on the Internet as you create a link, make sure you give credit to the author.
  • ask relevant questions and create diaglog.  Without diaglog from your readers, it is a one-person show which can easily grow stale.   

If you've been blogging for awhile, you may wonder how do I maintain the readers I've acquired.

An excellent post called 34 reasons why people unsubscribe from your blog might provide some insight.  This article was featured on the blogsite "problogger" in 2007, but remains relevant today.  At that time it received 257 comments.  (not bad dialog.)

You may even wonder, if I have a website, why do I need a blog.  

After researching this question, it appears that having both might be advantagous for a business.  A website may be better suited to "static information" what doesn't require a lot of changes; whereas a blog is all about change with "new content".   There was some interesting dialog connected to this topic related to which blogging tool is best to use.  The top contenders seem to be "Wordpress" and "Blogger" followed by "Blogspot" which gives us new research to do for a future article.

Was this post beneficial to you?  Please leave your comments below.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Winners of the Pulitzer Prize have written a thought provoking book called Half the Sky, Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

This book reveals how a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad. We as an organization focused on women empowering women look at the needs of local area businesses to create connections and provide support for one another. I feel that we in turn, should understand the needs and support women not only here, but also abroad. In 2005 as my husband and I prepared our home and our hearts to bring our daughter to the United States through an International adoption. I knew very little about the plight of women in other parts of the world. Needing to understand the circumstances which led to our daughter living in a Social Welfare Institute the first 12 months of her life, I began to pour through books about what might have caused her birth-mother, as well as millions of other women in Asia, to relinquish the rights to their daughters. Even though I approached this initially from a personal need so that I could answer the tough questions that may surface in our household someday, what I didn’t expect was the tremendous responsibility that knowledge places on the hearts of those who look for answers. I can no longer look at the world seeing only what surrounds me in my Midwestern home nestled in the middle of a country that encourages and supports women to be the best that they can be, I now look at cultural differences that do not allow women and girls to make choices about their future.

I will warn you, the book “Half the Sky” is not a feel good book. It is one that will bring you to tears, and make you sick to your stomach as you learn about female trafficking, life in brothels, and women who suffer devastating injuries during childbirth. I also learned that when we only throw money at issues, it seldom solves the problem. Learning about grassroots organizations and programs that are changing lives by finding solutions on how to get and keep you girls in schools showed me that it was not about resources, but how those resources were implemented. Something as simple as de-worming children to improve their attention, supplying iodine pills to increase the brains capacity to learn, and teaching young women about how to best handle their monthly cycle play a very important role in changing the lives of future generations.

Chapter eleven starts with a quote from Kofi Annan which reads “It is impossible to realize our goals while discriminating against half the human race. As study after study has taught us, there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.” It is this chapter which explains why micro-loans created specifically for women-owned businesses are the best investments. I would highly recommend this book to anyone wishing to truly make a difference in our world. 3 Degrees Connected supports micro-lending to women-owned businesses in many parts of the world including Asia, Africa, and South America. One of the criteria I use in assigning money to businesses I wish to support is how the funds will be applied, if the woman is interested in supporting her children’s education, and the likelihood that the woman (or group of women) are to repay their loans. The likelihood of repayment is important to me as I want to reinvest the same resources multiple times increasing the likelihood that small donations will have the great impact.

To find our Kiva lending team, click here.  In the upper left hand corner of that screen select the option "Loans" to see where our resources have been applied and learn a little about the ambitions of those needing our help.  You will see that we have helped women in eleven countries (Senegal, Uganda, Ecuador, Peru, Tajikistan, Nigeria, Ghana, Bolivia, Tanzania, Phillippines, and Togo). 

In addition to the 15 loans listed on our lending page (2009 contributions), our daughter, then age four, held a caused-based birthday party where she treated her friends to a princess tea party.  Forfeiting gifts she requested her friends consider donations for Kiva investments.  We were able to provide resources to six women's business all of which have repaid their loans allowing us to reinvest.   

If you wish to read about some inspiring women who have changed their life through education, there are many examples in the book "Half the Sky".  I would challenge us all to see what a difference we can make in our world in 2010.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Inspiring Quotes

Here is a three minute slideshow containing inspirational quotes, enjoy and begin to dream big.

Where Do You Get Your Motivation and Drive for Success?

Where do you get your motivation and drive to create success for your business? 

If you are a small business entrepreneur quite often you are needing to find ways to be self-motivated to strive for the level of success that you have defined for yourself.  That is, if you've defined your goals and you know where you're heading.  It is all to easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities that we fail to see where this will lead us.  Not only do we get caught up in these activities, we aren't really thinking about "how" what we are doing is going to help us achieve our goals.  In 2010, if you want to change where your business is heading, start steering the ship. 

Some businesses have built in programs to help motivate the success of their entrepreneurs.  That is the beauty of home consulting businesses.  So if you are a home consultant selling products or services, please share so of your organizations success strategies with us.  I know for one, MaryKay Cosmetics, Longerberger Baskets, and Amway all have wonderful conferences where they share success stories and help to motivate their consultants to achieve greater levels of success.  They've even define the goals that one must achieve in order to reach the next level. 

As a startup company without an organized structure with predefined goals, one must learn early on to set goals, and create a strategy for success.  There is no reason that we cannot use the same resources that larger companies have drawn up using the Internet, reading books, and exchanging ideas with one another.  I've embedded a video in this post which is an interview with Tori Johnson, ABC News whose program is called "Home Work".  She interviews successful women with whom we can draw inspiration and provides great tips on how to achieve success.  The embedded video is about "Gloria Mayfield Banks" a name that really means something within the MaryKay Industry.  It doesn't matter what industry she has gained her success; as a motivational speaker, her message is universal.  To be success, she says . . .
  1. Focus on the "Yes"
  2. Focus on developing your skills, and
  3. Set expectations for your goals.
This is a five minute video, but you will see the above laid out in the last minute and a half, so don't stop watching too early.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Put on Your Feng Shui Eyes

This article was submitted by Jenna Boyd, a certified Feng Shui practitioner and owner of Elements of Harmony Feng Shui, LLC

Working as a Feng Shui consultant has allowed me to witness many different residential and commercial environments. Following are a few examples, along with hints to improve the chi in work or living spaces. Implementing these subtle changes can have a huge impact - without spending a lot of money.

Furniture Placement:
The golden rule in Feng Shui is to face the door, as it represents the flow of life’s opportunities. For a number of my professional clients, just turning their desk has resulted in a turn around in their business. Try placing your desk in different locations to see how productive you feel in each. Notice the narrow feeling created when it is facing the wall; or how looking out a window may be distracting. Compare this to the empowered, expansive feeling evoked when the desk is facing into the room.

In living areas, sofas are often situated with the back facing the door. This creates an unwelcoming feeling. Typically, this occurs because there are too many pieces of furniture, or the room has limited arrangement options. However, there is always a way to open up a room. Take everything out, and put back only what is necessary for the space. Look in other rooms for furniture that may fit better.

Master Bedroom:
While formal bedrooms are beautiful, when they are overdone it may take away from the comfortable, intimate feeling of a cozy, sacred space. Our environments help to create our experience, so think “yummy” by adding soft, comfortable linens, accenting with items and fabrics in warm skin tones, and artwork that evokes feelings of passion or rest.

Paint Color:
For $100 you can paint your bedroom DIY (do it yourself) style, or spend about $200 and have a painter to do it for you; either way, the room will seem brand new. Once the room is painted, the key then is to resist putting things back in their original place. Be “on purpose” with adding in furniture, accessories and art that you love.

Liven up the space:
Bring up the chi in any space for just pennies by adding one additional light source. Situate three lamps so that they form a triangle within the room, then replace low-wattage bulbs with energy-efficient 100 or 150-watt bulbs. Three-way bulbs are an excellent solution for a multi-purpose space. Plants add lushness and comfort to any room. Use nature as artwork by opening the blinds to a beautiful backyard. Hang a mirror on the wall across from a window to reflect in the beauty of nature as art.

Shelf Units:
Consider how long belongings have been sitting on the same shelves. Recently, while working with a long-time client, we discussed taking out the books and other items from a bookshelf. They had sat unmoved for at least ten years. Afterward, she called and said that she felt we had “unlocked” something in her. Long story short, her mother had arranged the bookshelf and the books had belonged to her late husband. While clearing out those books and rearranging the shelves was a subtle change on the surface, in her heart, it was a big letting go.

Where to begin:
Start in the master bedroom and work out from there. Or, focus on the area of the home where the energy feels bottlenecked. And, remember that sometimes we need others to see for us what we are unable to see for ourselves. An Elements of Harmony Feng Shui consultation can provide a plan and implementation to refresh your space and re-energize your life.

Jenna Boyd, Elements of Harmony Feng Shui, LLC, is a certified Feng Shui practitioner, providing consultations for residential and commercial spaces.  Contact: or 616.843.1890

Marketing to Women

This topic has a lot of buzz these days, only because women make up the largest segment in the consumer market, 87 billion dollar market in the U.S. alone.  The fastest growing demographic is women who were born between 1946 and 1964, typically called the "Baby Boomers".  I being one of them. 

Recently I viewed the "Dove" campaign that is streaming over the Internet which I love because of the message.  The message is relevant to me as a Mother of a young girl, the message is timely, and the message speaks to my heart in an emotional sort of way.  It is difficult to view these videos and not get caught up in the story, which makes it a brilliant campaign.  If you stand back and view this from a purely marketing motivation, Dove gets five stars.  See what you think. 

Tell us who else is going a great job "Marketing to Women" and why.

The Dove Fund

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Website - Design for Success

Have you ever entered a website with high expectations of finding something great only to be completely turned off by background music?

This is one of many mistakes that entrepreneurs make when setting up their websites. Getting someone’s attention, retaining their attention, and getting them to respond in the manner you want can be tricky; however, not so tricky that one cannot master success on the Internet.

The key to creating a successful website is simplicity and ease of navigation. Too much clutter through wordy text, inconsistency in font size and style, and multiple font colors can be very distracting. As you evaluate your own website, review the list below to see if you are adhering to principles of good website design.

1. Aim to capture the attention of your visitor's immediately.

2. Be consistent in your design from page to page.

3. Choose your color scheme wisely. Do you know the message of different colors?

4. Use plain text backgrounds, avoid textures or background designs as each browser will display a website differently.

5. Create contrast between background and font color (white background and black print is the best).

6. Optimize your page so that it loads quickly. A page that takes too long to load will lose visitors.

7. Don't make pages any longer than they need to be. Avoid the need to scroll down to obtain vital information.

8. Don't be afraid of open space. Too much clutter will confuse the message you are trying to share.

9. Create a link to your home page on every page. Do not use "forward" and "back" as you are never certain on what page someone may enter your site.

10. Include contact information on your site. Obtain a post office box if you are concerned about identity theft. Visitors need to know where you are located, especially if you are offering a service. Include a phone number, if at all possible.

11. Don't put a graphic counter on your website. Do you really want your visitors to know the number of visitors you’ve had? Add an analytical software counter that you can view this information through reports. Set objectives so you can determine where you need to place emphasis to obtain a greater market share.

12. Don't clutter your site with banners and advertisements. This will only reduce the uploading speed of your website and cause visitors to move away from your site.

13. Make sure your screen resolution is good in most search engines. Don't forget to look at how your site displays.

14. Verify that all your links work correctly.

15. Check and double check spelling and grammar throughout your site.

16. Never play background music on your site!

17. Avoid overuse of gadgets, page layouts, and a clear message will speak louder to impress your visitors.

18. Make sure that nothing on your website is greater than 3 clicks away from your Home page. A two-click rule to find anything on your site is optimal.

19. Don't indicate that your site is "under-construction"; bring it up when it is ready. An under-construction message does not encourage visitors to come back.

20. Don't use excess BOLD, CAPITAL, or Italic fonts and never underline text, this will only confuse your readers. (Underline typically denotes a link is available.)

21. If you have links, make sure they are visible. A common approach to indicate that a link exists is to use "Blue Underlined" text.

22. Avoid using the text "click to enter" your website, this adds an unnecessary step which wastes your visitors time. The only time this should be used is when you expect your visitors to have a userid and a password to enter.

23. Get others who use the Internet frequently to critique your site and give you some ideas on how to make improvements.

24. Pay attention to the "fold" line in your website. Make sure your pertinent information is placed in the visible area which doesn't required that they scroll down. The "Buy Now" button is the most relevant component of most E-commerce sites.

25. When designing a website, focus on your primary marketing demographic and design it based on their interest, not yours. This being said, the "About Us" content on your website should not take a prominent position on your site. If your visitors are interested in learning about you, they will look for this.

26. Use a font size that is easy to read, the largest consumer group in America is now women born before 1964. Vision can be an issue. Also, electronic gadgets are getting smaller so make sure your font isn’t too large to be viewed on a cellphone.

If you have additional tips, please feel free to include them in the comments section below.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Year End Planning - Record Retention

It’s hard to believe another year is coming to an end. For many, the end of the year is thought of as a time to spend with friends and family during the holidays. However, even though people don’t like to think about it, the end of the year is also an important time to begin preparing for the upcoming tax season.

While gathering the paperwork needed to file the current year’s tax return and beginning to start a new file for the upcoming year, it is sometimes hard to know what information should be kept and for how long. Retaining and storing your income tax records is an important final step of your tax filing responsibility. This article will provide you with some of the rules for keeping your tax records, along with some information on storage options.

First of all, almost everyone knows that tax returns should be kept indefinitely. However, it is not necessary to keep documents supporting an item of income or deduction on a tax return that long. Generally, there are two things that should be considered when determining how long a supporting document should be kept;
  1. the time frame over which the IRS can audit the return and assess a tax deficiency, and
  2. the time frame you have to file an amended return. For most taxpayers, this period is three years from the original due date of the return or the date the return is filed, if later.
For example, if you filed your 2008 Form 1040 on or before April 15, 2009, the IRS has until April 15, 2012, to audit the return and assess a deficiency. However, if a return includes a substantial understatement of income, which is defined as omitting income exceeding 25% of the gross amount reported on the return, the statute of limitations period is extended to six years.

A good rule of thumb for keeping tax records is to add a year to the IRS statute of limitations period. If you use this approach, you should keep your income tax records for a minimum of four years. However, it may be more prudent to retain your records for seven years, which the IRS informally recommends. State tax rules must also be considered, but holding records long enough for IRS purposes will normally be adequate for federal and state tax purposes, assuming the returns were filed at the same time.

There are certain tax records that should be kept much longer than described above and some, indefinitely. For instance, records relating to the cost basis of property that could eventually be sold, such as investment property and business fixed assets, should be retained based on the record retention period for the year in which the property is disposed. Also, along with tax returns, there are other records that should be kept indefinitely. These records include IRS and state audit reports, business ledgers, financial statements, and corporate records. Attached is a schedule listing some recommended document retention time periods that may be a good reference to keep handy in case you ever have some questions on a certain document.

Even though a document may no longer be needed for tax purposes, keep in mind that there may be non-tax reasons to keep certain tax records. Examples might include documents such as insurance policies, leases, real estate closing statements, employment records, and other legal documents. It’s always a good idea to make sure documents will not be needed for any other purpose before disposing of them.

It’s also important to know that the IRS permits taxpayers to store certain tax documents electronically. Although the rules are aimed primarily at businesses and sole proprietors, they presumably apply to other individuals as well. The rules permit taxpayers to convert paper documents to electronic images and maintain only the electronic files. The paper documents can then be destroyed. However, certain requirements must be met to take advantage of an electronic storage system.

Hopefully this brief overview helps you understand the income tax record retention rules a little better. However, it may be a good idea to seek guidance from an accountant or attorney if you are ever unsure about whether or not a certain document can be discarded.

Recommended Document Retention Time Periods

This article was submitted by Rhonda Herzhaft, CPA with Conn, Geneva, and Robinson CPA Firm.  Rhonda has ten plus years of tax accounting related experience. 

Thursday, December 10, 2009

New BNI Group Forming in Grand Haven

There is a brand new BNI networking group starting up in Grand Haven and we are looking for more members! This group is in it's start up stages and offers a lot of opportunity for those who are looking to increase their business. I know many people who are in BNI groups who have benefited greatly from the relationships they make there. Most BNI groups are already full and don't have openings or aren't located in Grand Haven, so this is an amazing opportunity for our area!

This group meets weekly from 11-12:30 at the Days Inn conference room in Grand Haven on Thursdays.

BNI is a business and professional organization that allows only one person from each profession to join a chapter. Belonging to BNI is like having dozens of sales people working for you because all the other members carry several copies of your business cards around with them. When they meet someone new who could use your products or services they hand your card out and recommend your services. It's as simple as that! 

Successful businesses depends on word of mouth. Word of mouth advertising is the best advertising there is and BNI provides a structured and supportive system of giving and receiving business. It does so by providing and environment in which you will develop personal relationships with dozens of other qualified business professionals. By establishing this "formal" relationship with other people, you will have the opportunity to substantially increase your business.

Examples of the benefits to you:
1. Increased exposure to many other people and businesses.
2. Substantially increased business through referrals.
3. Tools to network more effectively.
4. Participation in up to 52 networking meetings per year.
5. Quarterly newsletters with educational material on networking, public speaking, and business.
6. Participation in business trade shows.
7. Free periodic workshops on networking.
8. Much, much more!

Please feel free to visit or

To learn more about this program, the cost, the committment or any questions you may have contact Amy VanHeukelom at 616 392-2290 Ext. 109 or 248-496-2973, or email:

This article was submitted by Amy VanHeukelom, a Licensed Mortgage Loan Officer with The Mortgage House, Inc.

3 Degrees Connected™ currently has to experience with this program, we are not endorsing this program, nor is there any financial relationship tied to sharing this information with our readers.

100 Days to Abundance

"When times are good, anyone can win . . . when times are tough, the smartest and the most proactive win."

Team Nimbus is committed to helping small businesses prosper in these tough times!!!

In 100 Days you learn to create:
  • An unlimited supply of prospects
  • Powerful referral partners and referral systems
  • Strategic partners to help you grow your business
In 100 Days you will also learn to:
  • Turn your prospects into clients!
  • Increase your business from your existing clients!
  • Produce more results than you thought possible!

    • Small Business Owners and Sales Professionals
    • Those determined to grow their businesses even in tough times
    • Those willing to do what it takes
    • Those wanting the focus, accountability, and the know how to double their income 
    100 Days to Abundance makes the best of *Team Nimbus's proven concepts, strategies, and approaches available to you and your business.

    To learn more about the committment, the cost, and upcoming programs, contact Jenna Boyd at 616-843-1890 or by email at

    100 Days to Abundance is for:
*Team Nimbus of North Carolina is a small business advisory firm providing a multitude of real-world tools, informational resources and personal attention to help small business owners and sales professionals bring a sense of urgency to the business success they desire. Team Nimbus clients become part of a team of business owners and sales professionals committed to achieving success in their businesses and their life. The essence of Team Nimbus is we surround our clients with the people that will help them figure out what they want and how you get there. More information about Team Nimbus of North Carolina can be obtained by calling (919) 926-9810.

Information submitted by Jenna Boyd, Owner, Elements of Harmony Feng Shui, LLC

3 Degrees Connected™ currently has to experience with this program, we are not endorsing this program, nor is there any financial relationship tied to sharing this information with our readers.    

Double Your Income Workshops (Free)

Can you double the income in your business in 100 days?

Many don't think that its possible. It is possible and you can see if it is possible for you by joining a room full of like-minded business owners and professionals for the Double Your Income Workshop.

This Free Workshop is for business owners and professioinals who want to achieve a substaintial increase in the growth of their business. The Double Your Income Workshop is a 90-minute workshop that gives you the opportunity to explore what you can do to double your business income in as little as 100 days!

This workshop is led by a *Team Nimbus certified facilitator who works with small business entrepreneurs and sales producers. This workshop can have an extraordinary impact on your business.

This workshop is fun, fast-paced, and informative. You will meet other business owners and professionals that are also interested in growing their businesses rapidly.

Dates to Remember:

Thursday, December 17, 2009 from 9:00 - 10:30 a.m.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010 from 9:00 - 10:30 a.m.
Thursday, January 7, 2010 from noon - 1:30 p.m.

Register online by clicking the links above, or contact Jenna Boyd at 616-843-1890 or email:

Workshop Location:

KP Galley
Upper Mezzanine
510 W. Savidge Street, Suite G
Spring Lake, MI 49456
616 296-9333

*Team Nimbus of North Carolina is a small business advisory firm providing a multitude of real-world tools, informational resources and personal attention to help small business owners and sales professionals bring a sense of urgency to the business success they desire.  Team Nimbus clients become part of a team of business owners and sales professionals committed to achieving success in their businesses and their life. The essence of Team Nimbus is we surround our clients with the people that will help them figure out what they want and how you get there.  More information about Team Nimbus of North Carolina can be obtained by calling (919) 926-9810.

This program is facilitated by Jenna Boyd, Owner of Elementas of Harmony Feng Shui, LLC.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Next Question - Why Pay for Membership

The next question you may ask is why pay an annual membership fee to 3 Degrees Connected™ to be included in a members only web-based network when there are so many other social media platforms on which someone may connect such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, or Ning? We hope the answer will not surprise you as we’ve really been trying to get the message out.

Building a network of women-owned, women-operated business that is cohesive in nature, based on consistent ideals, and growing in numbers is actually harder than one may think. With applications like MySpace, Twitter, or Facebook, people can build business pages, and gather fans, and increase their readership through offering incentives, which I hope we are all taking advantage of. However, what this doesn’t really do is connect us on a deeper level as “business entrepreneurs”, it is a self-serving mechanism. Each business is operating as an independent entity with hopes to gain a greater audience to support their own business endeavors.

In the organization 3 Degrees-Connected™, the mantra should be “it’s not about me”. We are creating an infrastructure to support and encourage one another so we don’t feel like we are walking the independent business owner path alone. With an appointed Board of Directors we will be creating bylaws which govern the direction of this organization. We hope to be a useful resource for making connections, one business owner to the next, and providing resource information to support and grow individual companies.

Membership fees will help us to file for non-profit organization status which will make fund-raising efforts within our community easier. We hope to provide an online support system through dialogue and pay for web-development and maintaining our domain name and trademarks. We will developing an orientation program to train those not comfortable with “online” activities to gain confidence in building their social media strategy and learn how to operate within this ‘ning’ network. We hope that existing business entrepreneurs pave the way for those following in our footsteps to make the road smoother and help others avoid unnecessary roadblocks that stand in the way of their success.

Philanthropic efforts will include joining together as a group of talented women to assist businesses in our community who have lost hope and are in survival mode. We hope that we as women will be the encouragement to other women to continue to follow their hearts and not give up the fight too soon. It’s not about funding businesses, but about offering our expertise. This effort has already begun. We are encouraged by the offering of services, and effort to invest in the success of businesses around us. If we want places to go, places to shop, and services in our local community, we need to begin to address the needs of those businesses. If we don’t who will?

What is Ning?

If you’ve heard the buzz about 3 Degrees-Connected™ women’s network, you’ve probably heard us say “with a paid memebership” you receive access to a members only ‘ning’ network. This network will allow you to create stronger bonds with women in our community through interactive dialogue, creation of a women-owned, women-operated business directory, a page to describe yourself and what is important to you, and a place to share your business goals and objectives. Maybe you’ve picked up one of our networking brochures and wondered what is a ‘ning’ network and how can this really help me?

“Ning” is a social networking site that was launched in 2004 by two co-inventors Gina Bianchini and Marc Andreesen, and a group of angel investors. In 2007 they raised $44 million in venture capital and in 2008 they announced raising an additional $60 million in capital by undisclosed investors. The name “ning” was selected because of its simplicity, it is not an acronym for anything; but after the name was selected, the founders later discovered that the word means “peace” in Chinese. The Chinese language is very diverse and in another version it means “a horrific vision of you”. Let’s hope our experience with this network reveals the peaceful effort of women empowering women.

This networking site allows a group of individuals (3 Degrees Connected™) to setup a social network around some common interest. This network which was programmed in PHP and sits on a Java platform (important to programmers) has both a free and a fee-based application. As a startup organization we have chosen the free social networking version. What this means is that ning owns a piece of real estate in the lower right hand corner of our network where they place targeted advertisements.

With a fee-based network, we can eliminate the “ning” association from our login, and we control the real estate in the space targeted for advertising. I believe that as membership builds, we will select the fee-based version of this Open Sourced software and allow our members to purchase advertisements that support their business development. This premium service also allows us additional storage, bandwidth, and non-ning URL’s.

Bandwidth – a transmission rate which allows the maximum amount of information (bits/second) to pass through a channel . . . in other words, speed of data transmission and collection.

URL- stands for Uniform Resource Locator is a string of characters which identifies an address that directs a user on the World Wide Web to a website, or page. The first part of the address indicates what protocol to use. You might be familiar with “http” which stands for “hyper-text transfer protocol”. The next section of the URL is referred to as a domain name. It is easier to locate a domain name than an IP address which is list of several digits separated by periods which actually locates the website or page on the Internet (similar to the cataloging systems found in our public libraries).

If you are not Internet saavy, don't worry, we are also planning to create orientation sessions to help you navigate through all this social media hysteria.  We can assist you in setting up your own social networking page in 'ning' as well as learn other valuable internet tools to help stimulate and grow your business.

For more information about membership, please click the link below.   


Still have questions, please click the link below:

The Next Question

Multiple Views

When in business it is easy to become discouraged over a lack of progress, slow sales, a lack of motivation, and more questions than answers. In a past Reader’s Digest article, I was reminded that there is more than one way to look at what is getting in our way. An article written by Michael Freeman called “Four Ways of Looking at a Wall” was not an article directly related to business, but one can read between the lines and recognize it’s application.

Read Story Here

Friday, November 20, 2009

December 15, 2009 - Elks

Laura Edwards, IT Works Consultant is putting together a Expo at the Elk's downtown Grand Haven on Third Street on December 15th. She is looking for people interested in having a booth.  She would like to have 20 to 30 vendors. If you are interested, please contact Laura at 231-750-2191 or by email at

November 21, 2009 - Party on the Greens

The Party of Parties on the Green:
A unique shopping event with a “home party” feel

Shopping • Refreshments • Style • Fun

Purchase locally provided specialty and one-of-akind gifts and beat the holiday rush! Hand crafted baby items,jewelry, children’s clothing
and accessories, tote bags, purses, decorations and more.

Featuring local consultants from:
• Tastefully Simple
• Creative Memories
• Longaberger
• Pampered Chef
• BeautiControl
• Shaklee
• Juice Plus
• FlashPoint Global

. . . along with area artists and Jillyn Segroves, photographer, and
Michele O’Brien, chiropractor.

Saturday, November 21
9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Grand Haven Golf Club

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Yak About It

Sunday, November 15th, our friend, Jan Rohr's from Norton Shores will be competing for your attention on the website  She is the inventor of the PooDunki.  You may have remembered the story a few weeks back when she was featured in both the Muskegon Chronicle and again in the Grand Rapids Press. 

Let's help Jan be a winner in tomorrow's competition by either casting your vote, talking about her product (online), or purchasing a PooDunki for the pet lover on your Christmas shopping list.

For a link to this website, click here.

On Monday, November 9th, I won my competition on Yakaboutit and captured 80% of the votes, conversation, and even had a few purchases!

Style 'n Wrap - Heat Resistant Hairstyling Tool Organizer (November 9th Competition)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wag Your Tail . . .

Okay the title to this post is a little pun, but I'm so happy to announce another accomplishment of one of our ladies in this network, Inge Bonfoey, inventor of the Towel Tog® just appeared last evening on Happy Hour, Fox News Network.  She was presenting her patented mirco-fiber towel for pets.  She has put a lot of thought and energy into creating a marvelous product for pet lovers.  Want to save your furniture and carpet from the effects of a wet animal . . . wrap them in a cozy towel tog and your pet will be happy and so will your animal.

See the Clip below and learn about this program on Fox News Network.  Maybe you'll find there is an opportunity for your invention or business venture too.

Keep Your Dog Dry (click on this story)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Training Resources

Are you looking at your To-Do list of all of the things you need to accomplish before the end of 2009 and saying,    "CALGON - take me away!"?

Are all of your 'rocks' getting too heavy to push uphill by yourself?

As we are all running lean and trying to do more with less, our To-Do lists are in danger of becoming Not-Done lists. Know when to say when. Ask for help.

Not So Basic Training can assist you in your time of need. Areas where we can help:

  • Training you need to design and run before the end of 2009 that you are thinking "that is SO not going to happen", but does need to get done.

  • Projects that need assistance (manpower, direction, accountability, etc.)

  • Coaching that needs to happen to bring an employee back in line, but you have no time to train the 'coach' to do the job that needs to be done.

  • Employee surveys. How are they feeling about your company, leadership, the culture. VERY important information in these tough times.

  • Team building. Your people don't have to like each other, but they DO have to work together respectfully.

  • Strategic Planning. What is your plan moving forward? Are your people trained in setting good solid goals?

  • Interviewing. It IS all about getting the right people on the bus....

  • Develop New Hire Orientation programs. Please do not just throw people into their new jobs and expect them to sink or swim. Help them succeed!

Much, much more!

Mitzi Taylor will be one of our upcoming speakers at 3 Degrees-Connected™ and share ideas to assist small business entrepreneurs.  Click on her name to read her personal biographical information.  

Come join us in January and refresh your business objectives and set obtainable goals.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Making a Difference

As holiday season approaches, we are hearing lots of conversation about the economic conditions here in the U.S. Merchants are frantic about whether this years sales will help them avoid bankruptcy. I know that our purchase dollars can have a significant impact on the outcome for many retailers. If your home is like mine, now more than ever, the phone is ring off the hook asking us to contribute to all sorts of causes. Everyone has needs.

Consider this year instead of passing the $25 to $50 gift card to your relatives in exchange for the same $25 to $50 gift card; do something significant with your purchasing power this holiday season. Not only think of the gift recipient, but whether your spending keeps a business afloat, does your gift serve the needs of your community, does your gift serve the needs of someone who might not otherwise receive a gift.

A recent article about what big box stores plan to do this holiday season showed that we depend on materialism. The plot of the story goes, "we will limit supply to increase the demand". Do we really want to buy into this form of commercialism, or do we want to rethink our holiday strategy.
  • Think about giving the $25.00 gift card toward a cause on behalf of someone else. In an organization such as KIVA, you can purchase a gift certificate for someone to invest in a micro-loan of their choice.  This gift is then invested as a micro-loan on behalf of a business in need.   When the loan is repaid, the recipient can chose to either re-invest or withdraw the funds for their own use. Is the gift still worth $25.00?

  • Consider supporting local businesses with your purchase dollar rather than looking at larger discount chain stores.  Let the merchant know that you are doing this because you feel their business is important to the community.

  • Consider making personalized gifts with special meaning from your heart, rather than spending your resources unnecessarily. 

  • Consider the phrase "time is money" and give someone your time as a gift this holiday season.  Create your own gift card indicating what you plan to do, go ahead and print a value and redemption date on the certificate. 
3 Degrees-Connected has set up a KIVA lending group which supports women-owned businesses in other parts of the world.  A link to support this collective giving through 3 Degrees-Connected is found in the left sidebar to this blog.  

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Setting Up An E-Commerce Shopping Cart

Have you ever heard the phrase, or have you ever used the phrase "you don't know what you don't know"? 

I think this is a common phrase uttered a time or two by small business entrepreneurs.  That is why we are always on the look out for good mentors, good books, free classes, and sometimes good articles on the Internet.

Lately I've been trying to learn a little more about e-commerce, driving traffic to my website, creating a simple, clean presentation of my products, and resolve the dilemma of what is the best shopping cart experience I can give my customers without costing an arm and a leg.  I'm sure I'm not much different than any other new entrepreneur faced with this same task.

Making the decision on whether to process credit cards or continue to use a PayPal solution has also surfaced a time or two.  Comparison shopping takes time and how do we know that there isn't a solution we haven't evaluated that would be better than the best we've looked at thus far.

While considering all these questions, I came across a well-written article that provides a great outline of what to look for when considering an e-commerce shopping cart that I will share below.  Although this article was written in 2005, the outline and topic is still very relevant today.   I know that I will answer all the questions in this article before talking with anyone about a lasting solution for my website. 

10 Things You Should Know About Shopping Carts by Robert Speyer was published on the Best Syndication website.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Developing a Press or Media Kit

If you've wondered about getting the word about about your business, products, or services, have you considered developing a press or media kit?

According to an article published  on the website "All Business.Com" the following article lays out the steps to create a press kit for your company.

The article entitled "Developing a Press Kit" highlights five steps to developing your press kit which include:

  1. Letter of Introduction - this letter should quickly describe your company and your products or services and provide a compelling reason why it is important for the recipient of the letter to learn more about what you have to offer.
  2. Corporate History - this basic information about your company from its founding to the current state should include a brief history, your mission statement, significant goals you wish to achieve and information about the owners.  You may also wish to include photographs if they are relevant. 
  3. Single Sheets - this information provides greater details about your products or services and it may include items like business brochures.  Consider including a list of frequently asked questions, your marketing demographic information, and upcoming events (be sure to keep this current if it is included).
  4. Press Coverage - include anything positive that has been written about you in the media or outline appearances you have made, CD's or DVD's. 
  5. Photos and Other Images - if you have a business logos, product demonstration DVD's or anything that promotes your business in visual form, include it in your press kit.
Remember to keep all this information in order as you may need to access and present it to further the cause of your business, products, or services.  This is your business resume.  Make it as elaborate as you like and provide plenty of information to create an impressive image for your company.

News - The Stocked Kitchen

Sarah Kallio and Stacey Krastin know how to get things done.  If you've started a business and want people to know about it, developing your marketing and advertising strategy is very important.  The two ladies who own Stocked, LLC and are known as the inventors of the Stocked Kitchen have laid out a plan to get the word out about their product, the Stocked Kitchen.

Sarah has appeared on Take Five G.R. a few times, and they have had articles in the local newspaper as well as Women's Lifestyles Magazine.  In the article below, Sarah is recognized in her home town newspaper.

Mt. Pleasant - The Morning Sun


Detroit - Macom Daily News

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pitch Night

In looking for another article published by the Holland Sentiential, I came across this article by Peter Danning regarding a "Pitch Night" hosted by Elevator Up, a Zeeland based Business.  I found it interesting and know that I will be looking for the next event:


The Holland Sentinel

Posted Oct 12, 2009

Zeeland, MI — .Sometimes the step between having a great idea and acting on it is insurmountable.

To help West Michigan entrepreneurs bridge that gap, a Pitch Night is set for 5:30 to 7 p.m., Oct. 20, at the Elevator Up offices, 201 W. Washington in Zeeland.

This free event is hosted by Elevator Up and Lakeshore Advantage. Anyone with a new business idea can make a five or 10 minute pitch, said Amanda Choko of Lakeshore Advantage, an economic development firm.

“Part of our mission is to inspire people to think entrepreneurially and launch new ventures,” Choko said. “There are a lot of people with really great ideas around you, and you don’t always get to hear them.”

Aaron Schaap, 28, started Elevator Up, a Web hosting and development company, in 2004. He said there still isn’t a real good infrastructure to help West Michigan start-ups flourish.

“This is more of a safe haven for people who are taking ideas and wanting to develop them,” he said.

Schaap said Pitch Night is also about giving constructive criticism.

“We’re trying to change the mindset of a couple things,” he said. “One is ‘Michigan nice’ — people won’t tell you when an idea sucks.”

The first Pitch Night in July had seven pitches and around 30 in attendance, Schaap said. This time around, organizers are hoping for better number in each category.

If interested in pitching, send the idea to Otherwise, Schaap said just come and find out what bright ideas are on West Michigan’s horizon.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Do you know about Google Alerts?

Do you know about the feature in Google, called “Google Alert”?

You query a topic and ask Google to send you “alerts” any time this topic is discussed in the news, or on the web. These alerts are sent to your email inbox based on the frequency you wish to review them.

Why would I do this?

You might ask, and my response would be, to become better informed about topics that interest you.

As an inventor, it has been important to me to take notice of topics relevant to my business demographic.  It is also useful to see who has discovered you and what is being said.  Often times you may find your own promotion showing up.  This as well can be useful.  You see first hand how well you are presenting your products or business in a sentence or two.  Is you message intriguing enough that others will open and read more about you, your products, or services? 

See what your competitors are doing by setting your Google Alerts to learn how they are being promoted.  The ability to become better informed is endless.


It will take a little practice to get the Google Alert set to your liking. When I first used this feature I found my inbox bombarded with emails. I would clear the clutter and refine my search criteria. I also found that reducing the frequency of these updates made it a more useful tool rather than an annoyance.  I would get fewer emails with more content.  Honing in on your own preference is well worth the effort.

You can learn more about Google Alerts by accessing this feature through the attacked link. Setting a Google Alert

If you are currently using Google Alerts and are willing to share how you use this tool, please share comments; it is always good to get more than one perspective.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What is a Trademark

This article has been provided by Jeff Jacobson, JD, LLM (Parmenter O'Toole, Muskegon).  If you have any questions related to this topic, a link to their website has been included below.  Jeff has given 3 Degrees Connect™ Women's network permission to publish this article.  Stay tune to more "expert" articles of this nature in the future.

What is a Trademark?

Trademarks and service marks can consist of names, logos, phrases, colors, sounds, packaging, and even building designs. These items are trademarks if they tend to designate the source of the goods or services sold. However, trademarks can not merely describe the good or service sold. For example, if you sell pens, you can not have a trademark for the name “Pen Company”. The protection provided by a trademark gives you the right to limit the use of marks that are likely to confuse customers as to the source of the goods or services. This means that you can limit the use of a mark that is similar to your mark.

Trademarks are created by use of the mark, and not by registration. This means that you must be using the mark in the sale of goods or services in order to claim rights to a trademark. The first to use the mark has superior rights to such mark. There are advantages for registered trademarks, and you may get superior rights by applying for registration before you start using the mark.

What are the Advantages to Registering a Trademark?

The legal advantages of registration are as follows:

  • Constructive notice to the public of your claim of ownership of the mark. In other words, the public is deemed to be on notice of your claim to the right to use of the trademark and exclude others from use;
  • Once the mark is registered, you are presumed to be the owner of the mark, and that you have the exclusive right to use the mark nationwide in connection with the goods and services listed in the trademark registration. This means that if your right to use the mark is challenged, a court will require the party challenging you to prove that you are not the rightful owner;
  • Triple damages for intentional infringement and attorney fees for clear intentional violations;
  • The ability to bring file a lawsuit concerning the trademark in federal court;
  • Superior rights to a domain name or similar domain names; and
  • The mark will become incontestable (i.e. no one can challenge your right to the mark) after it is registered for 5 years.

The business advantages are as follows:

  • People associate a registration with value in a mark;
  • People respond better to a demand letter to stop using the mark when the mark is registered;
  • It deters people from using your mark or something similar; and
  • It can help with marketing your brand (people recognize the ® symbol, and it makes the goods or services associated with the registered mark seem special or better than a competitors goods or services not using a registered mark).

This article was written by Jeff Jacobson, JD, LLM of Parmenter O'Toole
Jeff handles a broad range of matters related to business law, e-commerce, and intellectual property law including all facets of trademark registration and protection and registering copyrights.

Parmenter O'Toole
601 Terrace Street

Muskegon, MI 49440

Jeff Jacobson, JD, LLM

Monday, October 26, 2009

Membership - 3 Degrees Connected

If you live in West Michigan, are a woman, and own or operate a business, or have a business objective where making connections is important to you . . . we would love to have you become an integral part of our women’s network. Since women-owned businesses are one of the fastest growing demographics within our new economy, we are interested in meeting you.

The 3 Degrees-Connected™ blog site was established to help you become familiar with us as well as provide relevant business information to you. If you would like to stay abreast of all of our postings, please become a “fan” or link to our updates using an “RSS” feed. Our blog; however, can not be the only resource you use to create a deeper network connection. If that is what you are looking for, membership in our network is probably the answer; please read on . . .

If you are interested in an interactive forum to make more relevant business connections when face-to-face contact is not always practical, we have created a NING networking for members only. For $36.00 a year our membership includes:

• Three “Face-to-Face” Events a year (Jan., May, Oct)

• Interactive Forum Discussions about Topics Relevant to Business (Internet – Invitation Only)

• Personal Stories about Women (Behind the Business) to help us become better acquainted

• A Badge for your website or blog indicating that you are a member of 3 Degrees- Connected™ Women’s Network

• A 3 Degrees-Connected™ cling decal for your car window so you can easily be identified in the community

• Links to your Websites

• Inclusion in our Women-Owned, Women-Operated Business Directory

• Information about local events or organizations that support business development

If you are interested in Membership, please write on a piece of paper the information noted in the application form found in the left sidebar of this blog.  We are working on a downloadable application, sorry for the inconvenience.

Send your check, made payable to, 3 Degrees-Connected™ Women’s Network. Bundle both application and check into an envelop and mail to the address below:

 3 Degrees-Connected™
P.O. Box 495
  Spring Lake, MI 49456

We have also added a Pay Pal button on the upper left column of this blog to make this easier for you. If you select this form of payment, please note that we have included a small fee to cover processing costs.

It is important that we receive your application along with your payment.  If using Pay Pal, please use the comments box to enter enough information that we may contact you.    

Since we are living in the 21st Century, the most valuable resources our members can hope to acquire is using electronic means; if you are not Internet savvy, or have an email address, you probably wouldn’t have found our site to begin with. These are key elements to our membership. If needed, we will try to create a future event that helps to ease you into this type of electronic interaction.

If you have any questions, please feel free to forward them to or

You can also leave a message on our toll free number  866-587-2963.

Best wishes,

Rhonda W. Geneva
3 Degrees-Connected™ Women’s Network

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Making Connections

A business venture isn’t always about how much money is to be made, but sometimes it is about having a passion for what you do. Kari Paul, is an International Student Exchange representative has the responsibility to match school systems, families and students together. She is working for I.S.E., International Student Exchange, a non-profit organization. She has defined her area as, and she has currently been in touch with schools in Spring Lake, Grand Haven, Allendale, Coopersville, Fruitport, West Olive, Holland, and Muskegon.

Several years ago, Kari traveled, by train to Chicago with her two daughters and her mother-in-law and this is when she first learned about this program. She met a coordinator who was escorting students on a field trip; by asking questions, Kari learned what hosting a child was all about. In the 2008-09 school year her family hosted a girl from Spain. This young lady became an integral part of their family for ten months and when the time arrived for her to return home, the entire family and extended family shared a tearful goodbye. Kari said “I love being a mom, that’s what I do, and this child was as significant to me as one of my own.” Her philosophy is “If you’re not bring a child into your home for the right reasons, then don’t do it.” “Hosting a child has been the one of the most rewarding experience in our lives”, she said between tears as she thinks back on her first experience a year ago. Now she is hosting her second student.

When asked to be a representative to the Mid-Central region, Kari said that she didn’t hesitate to say yes when she learned that three people have held this position in the past two years. What makes this position right for her is that she is eager to get out and shake hands and get to know people both in her community as well as those adjoining Spring Lake school district. She said last week I called or emailed ten Principals in various school districts and of those ten she has already made appointments with three. Thirty percent response rate is incredible. What is difficult for her is getting to know families within the various school districts. Matching students from 55 different countries with families outside of her immediate school district has been the challenge. Already this school year 48 countries have allowed students into the U.S. and between Kent and Ottawa counties, 46 students have been placed.

Students between the ages of 14 and 18 are allowed to come to the U.S. through this program, to pursue their education. This however, is not only about education, but it is also important to give students the experience of what it is like to be an American teenager. It is not all about cracking the books, but experiencing life with activities like going to sporting events, school dances, live concerts, you name it. Kari said they try not to place students in schools where they might easily integrate with students that speak their own language such as placing a Spanish student in schools with a large Hispanic population. It is about integrating them into schools, exchanging customs, and perfecting their English. Some countries will validate the education that is received here in the states and others may not; a student may find that they have to go to school an additional year in their home country to graduate, but the experience is worth it to them. Once their ten months is up, they are required to return home. If the student chooses to come back for a visit, they have to go through normal channels like anyone else traveling abroad, including obtaining a visa, and making their own travel arrangements.

Exchange students are held to a very high standards, if they are caught doing something unlawful and even associated with activities that are outside of the guidelines provided by I.S.E., they can be sent back home and not allowed to complete their exchange student experience. Some students will arrive in January rather than late summer to start their educational program, but this works best with schools that operate on a semester basis. Many schools in our area run on trimesters which require a student to start at the beginning of a school year.

As Kari makes contact with a family who might be willing to become a host family, she will show them limited information about the student, but she waits until an application has been completed, a background check has occurred, and a home study interview has taken place. One policy that Kari shared is that it’s okay if the exchange student shares a room with another family member, but that they must have their own bed. Kari indicated that once a family has been through the review process that she is able to share more details about a specific student with them. This may include family information, student interests, family photos, etc. She says it is important for everyone concerned that the placement is a success. She gave an example of a pet owner expressing an interest in a specific student who has pet allergies; she could never make a match in an environment that would not be suitable to the student involved. She also serves as mediator, if needed for families who find matters that my come up once placement has occurred. She is an active part of the student and family during the exchange students stay in the United States.

Kari is excited about meeting school administrators, and finding schools willing to take exchange students. Every school is different; some schools are willing to take as many students as she can find host families for; whereas other school districts limit the number they will take. Some schools may take more than one student from the same country; whereas other schools want to create greater diversity. Kari is challenged by thinking of creative ways to meet and greet families from other school districts. She understands the importance of keeping family information close at hand as most schools do, so she has been requesting opportunities to speak at parent meetings, or through booster clubs. She will also consider speaking to churches to find families willing to host. If you are reading this post and have any interest in helping Kari make these connections or know of opportunities where she may speak, please contact her at 616-296-0121 or through email at

I found it very inspiring to speak with Kari, who also happens to be my neighbor; she truly has a passion for what she is doing, and I would love to see the impact she can make in our community taking on this new role. She says “I hope to place 14 students in and around our community by next school year.”